Brook Anderson, from Las Vegas, Nevada, is an avid rock climber, photographer and chocolate chip cookie connoisseur.
We got the chance to talk to her about her adventures, and showcase her incredible photography of climbers she has encountered on her journey.
How did you get into photography, and how has it made a positive impact on your life?
Around 2015, my mom was dying of cancer. My way of coping with watching her die was to take photos and document her last days. I needed an escape from the room and from all of the emotions I was feeling, but I didn’t want to leave her. I sort of used my camera as an escape. I could capture my mom, my family, and the whole experience of something so traumatic, without having to cry and feel the weight of what was happing. Using my camera gave me a time-out, a pause, a breath.
A week after my mom died, a friend asked me to take photos of her home birth. Being able to capture the whole of life–both birth and death–really solidified my love for photography. I originally pursued birth photography as my primary focus and have had the pleasure of capturing the birth of dozens of babies.
I ended up falling in love with climbing and bringing my camera along became the natural next step. I had no idea I would love climbing photography as much as I love climbing!
Since the beginning, photography has given me a time-out. Life can be really stressful and sometimes we just need a break. When I’m behind my camera, I’m in charge. I get to flow and create this cool harmony between control and the unpredictability of the subject I’m shooting in an environment that I don’t get to dictate. I’m not worried about my bank account, my schedule, or my list of things to do. I’m shooting. I’m lost in it, and it feels soooo good.
What inspired you to focus on photographing rock climbers? What about that subject appeals to you most?
I love rock climbing, and I love photography, so combining the two felt like the most natural thing to do. It was effortless. Rock climbing is HARD and it requires both physical and mental strength. Capturing people at the crag after they have spent countless hours training and practicing and failing and succeeding and growing is incredibly inspiring. Rock climbers inspire me to take photos of rock climbers. Climbing is also beautiful to watch. It’s like dancing: catching that perfect drop knee, a dynamic throw for that jug with feet cutting, or a close-up of the chalky, bloody hands that just took on the full weight of a human body… it’s a gorgeous thing.
What are some of the obstacles you face while trying to get the perfect action shot?
Getting the right angle is probably my biggest obstacle. I’m not always at a crag where I can be anywhere I want, and it requires knowing what to look for and what body movements and beta look the best in photos. There are a lot of variables at play, too: other climbers, safety, weird shadows, and harsh sunlight. I used to cut arms and feet off in my frame, or I would get shots of the climber looking down and it looked like they got decapitated.
Then there’s always the classic butt shot. When you’re down low, and the climber is up high, sometimes that’s all you have to work with, so you make it work … and hope your subject has a good ass!
Where are you located, and where are your favorite spots for photography and adventure?
I am located in Las Vegas, Nevada and I primarily climb and shoot at Red Rock. My favorite crags to shoot at in Red Rock are Cannibal Crag (it’s the easiest approach, and I can get really great angles and lighting), The Gallery and Wall of Confusion, and Kraft Boulders.
Honestly, I like shooting anywhere. I love the challenge of trying to get the best shots, and I’m not super picky. Unless it’s cold out. I hate being cold.
How did you get involved in rock climbing and outdoor adventures?
Growing up, my parents were big nature hippies from Northern California, and they used to force my sisters and I to go camping and hiking. I hated it growing up, but now it’s in my blood. I belong outside, and I feel the most at peace when I’m under the open sky. I used to hike Red Rock and see people climbing and think “I could do that.” My best buddy Jason took me outdoor climbing and watched me struggle up a 5.9 on top rope (I made it to the top my first try!). I fell in love and have been in a committed and slightly emotionally turbulent relationship with climbing ever since.
How do you think living a life of outdoor adventures can make a positive change in people’s lives?
I think there is something significant to putting yourself in environments that are uncontrolled and wild. Too much of our lives are spent in artificial, human-made structures: clean, controlled, predictable. I can feel it in my soul when I’m outside among the rocks and trees, and my heart and mind crave the wilderness. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath the entire time I’m in civilization, and as soon as I step out into the quiet wild, I can finally breathe. Humans need it. We need to feel connected to this earth because our lives depend on it. If we spend all of our time disconnected from the outdoors, we can’t appreciate how life-giving it is.
Where are some of your “bucket list” photography and climbing locations?
Easy. Ceuse, France. It’s world-class climbing, and I would love to visit the crag that Margo Hayes sent her first 5.15a. Go women! Red River Gorge in Kentucky, too. The routes there are super long with endless pockets, and I think it’s really beautiful. Namaste Wall in Kolob Canyon Zion, because it’s that beautiful sandstone that I love so much and I really want to climb up and sit in one of those huecos.
What are some of the best stories from your adventures?
Last summer, I traveled and climbed for the first time in Salt Lake City, Joshua Tree, Holcomb Valley, Veyo, and Mount Charleston. At Joshua Tree, my buddy Jason and I thought it would be a good idea to warm up on the 5.7 partial off-width, just to the left of Bird of Fire. Bad decision. After all of our blood, sweat, and tears had been poured into hours of struggling up this horrifically sandbagged route, I had to pee, and because I had left all of my stuff down the mountain (comfy shoes included), and because climbing shoes are the worst, I asked Jason if I could borrow his shoes to walk out to relieve myself. He immediately regretted it. I tried my best not to pee all over everything, but, ya know, sometimes you have to pee on your friend’s shoes in order to build that unbreakable bond of friendship.
What was your most memorable photo shoot?
My most memorable shoot was the time I got on my first fixed line. I had been going in direct at the anchors of sport routes in order to get those cool top-down shots, but I was really limited in my movement, and it wasn’t the safest option. I had reached out to my friend Irene, another climbing photographer, and asked if she’d teach me how to do a fixed line. The next week, we went out to Cannibal Crag in Calico Basin and she taught me all that I needed to know. It was really fun going up and down the line and being able to position myself to get really great shots of my friends climbing. You never forget your first, I guess.
What are some of your goals in photography and climbing and adventure?
My biggest goal is to be a freelance photographer for National Geographic. I want to combine my love for photography, the outdoors, and traveling into one epic career, and freelance photojournalism is what I have my heart set on. It’s not only about taking photos of climbers. I want to tell stories with my photos and I want to capture real moments of people in all of their glory struggling and succeeding in life.
More immediately, I want to perfect my craft. I have a lot to learn and there are people in this field of work that I want to glean from. In climbing, I have set a goal to redpoint a 5.12. I just broke into 5.11 this past year, so I have a lot of physical and mental training ahead of me before hitting my goal, but I love the challenge and I’m really excited to have that to look forward to.
Where is your next big adventure?
My next big adventure is a month-long backpacking trip around Europe in May. A couple friends and I will be traveling to London, Scotland, Italy, France, and the Switzerland. I’m not sure how much climbing I’ll get to do, but the plan is to eat the best food, take really beautiful photos, and laugh the most. It’s going to be great!
Follow her on Instagram: @brookbriana
At This Adventure Life we celebrate the lives and stories of the people who live life fearlessly. #livefearlessly